Spot the Fakers – 6 Warning Signs You’re Not Dealing with an Ethical Online Pet Pharmacy

pet meds

Much like everything else sold on the internet, there are people selling authentic pet products and meds and there are those who sell fake items. There are more than a few pet pharmacies online that sell counterfeit medications, supplements, and pet food

Sometimes, these fake pet pharmacies are easy to spot. They often offer unbelievable discounts on really popular pet products, have shady websites, and feature “badges of authenticity” that really don’t mean anything.

Honestly, you cannot debate the convenience of buying pet medications online. While there are unethical pet pharmacies, there are also those who sell 100% genuine products, offer great discounts, provide quick doorstep delivery, and feature honest pet meds reviews by real customers. The key is to learn how to filter out these good pet pharmacies from a long list of bad ones. It’s actually pretty easy and once you know the steps you will never have to worry about buying counterfeit pet products ever again. Without further ado, the following are 6 warning signs that you are not dealing with an ethical pet pharmacy.

Websites Not Asking You to Upload a Vet’s Prescription for Prescription Pet Medication

No matter what the selling platform, it’s mandated by law to check the prescription before selling any prescription medication, be it for pets or humans. Therefore, any site that does not adhere to that is essentially breaking the law. That also means, there is a high likelihood that they procure their products from counterfeiters or relabel expired pet meds.

The Pet Pharmacy is Not Vet-VIPPS Accredited

National Association of Board of Pharmacy (NABP) is an international organization that assesses both human and pet pharmacies and offers licenses and accreditations. They introduced the VIPPS program back in 1999 to accredit genuine online pharmacies. As its name implies, the Vet-VIPPS accreditation is offered by NABP to online pet pharmacies.  Most genuine pet pharmacies feature the Vet-VIPPS accreditation logo on their homepages.

Selling Pet Medications That Are Not FDA Approved

If you spot a pet med that’s not FDA approved, then consider that as an immediate redflag. No genuine pet pharmacy would ever risk featuring a medication that’s not regulated. Therefore, if you spot one, it’s a telltale sign that you are dealing with an unethical pharmacy.

Prices Sound Too Good to Be True

If the prices sound too good to be true, then it should invoke suspicion. This means the product featured did not come through the proper channels, which is always dangerous.  Apart from being sold fake products, you might end up buying meds manufactured outside the United States.

Not Listed or Poorly Rated on Better Business Bureau

BBB is an old school way checking a business’s online reputation and it still holds much ground. Head over to the BBB website and check to see if the website is listed. An unlisted website should be rejected immediately. The good thing about BBB is that you can also check customer reviews and ratings.

The Site Doesn’t Allow You to Write a Review

Most trusted online pet pharmacies would allow you to write a product review. If you buy from them the review gets marked as “Verified”. This is a risky move for people selling fake products, that’s why almost none of them allow visitors to write reviews.

First Do No Harm – How to Choose a Vet

“The physician must … have two special objects in view with regard to disease, namely, to do good or to do no harm” - Hippocratic Corpus

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Clients frequently ask me for advice with regard to their dog’s health, and I will answer them honestly (the biggest of which is that yes, your dog is overweight.  Now do something about it.) However, I have a very limited knowledge base of most things having to do with a dog’s physical health.  It’s not my area, and there are plenty of well-qualified individuals who can answer questions beyond “How do I clip my dog’s nails?”.  That’s where your vet comes in.

Choosing a Vet

Choosing a doctor or vet can be a very difficult thing.  It’s almost as dramatic an undertaking as choosing a pediatrician.  You are placing the health and welfare of your dog/child in the hands of someone else, essentially asking them to Pilot your dog’s/child’s health.  It can be scary handing over control.  So take your time when choosing your dog’s doctor.

Sometimes it can take ten tries before your get the perfect doctor.

Sometimes it can take ten tries before you get the perfect doctor.

Use your resources and referrals.  Do you like your dog’s groomer?  Ask who they recommend for a vet.  Did you adopt your dog?  Ask the shelter who they like to use. Don’t forget to ask your friends, or even post on Facebook to get some recommendations.  You may notice a trend of vets whose names frequently pop up, either good or bad.  Choose wisely.

Just kidding...you can change

Just kidding…you can always change vets if you need to

So you’ve got a recommendation, and you’ve made your first appointment.  Think of it as a first date.

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Things to look for:

  • Clean offices.  No, I don’t expect the floors to be spic and span, but if there is anything other than dog/cat hair on the floor (is that dried blood?!) step away from the reception desk.  Keep stepping.  Right out the door.
  • Friendly staff.  If reception makes you feel like a jerk for just checking in for your appointment, then how do you think you’re going to feel when you call them later asking a “dumb” question about your dog’s symptoms?  Yes, they may be very, very busy, and you may have to wait to have your question answered, but you should never be made to feel stupid for caring about your dog’s health.  Expect respect, for both you and your dog.
The staff here is a joke

The staff here is a joke

  • Easy set-up.  For those of you with dog-reactive dogs, you know what I mean.  It can be difficult working with your dog’s reactivity while out on a walk and another dog is across the street.  It can be very difficult in a crowded waiting room.  If the waiting room is over-crowded, approach the staff and ask if there is another option (waiting outside, or even better, a small room where you can wait).
  • Good communication.  Ask your vet a question, you should get an answer.  Note I did not state you should get the answer you are looking for. However, you should not feel shamed or stupid for asking questions.  You and your vet are a team both working together to keep your pet happy and healthy.  So if you don’t understand a procedure, or a medication, or symptoms, ask your vet.  They should give you an answer in terms you can understand.
  • Good “dog-side” manner.  Yes, your dog is scared, and perhaps you are, too.  Your dog might not like the vet at first.  Allow for some time to get a good relationship between your dog and your vet.  Watch your vet: do they seem comfortable working with your dog?  Do they take safety precautions when necessary (such as a muzzle or another person to assist)?  Those are good signs.
  • And sometimes “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer.    If your vet knows everything, know that they don’t.  It’s okay for them to say they aren’t sure, or don’t feel qualified to make a diagnosis.  Remember, first do no harm!  Knowing your limits (even as a vet) is a good thing.

And makes for wonderful BBC mock-umentaries.

Finally, be aware that any vet can be subjected to biased reviews, undeserved slander, and malicious attacks.   The very nature of their practice unfortunately includes taking animals to the Rainbow Bridge.  Understand the difference between a poor practice and poor circumstances.

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Damnit Jim, he’s a doctor, not a time traveller!

Choosing a vet is a very personal thing. You are asking someone else to care for the health and well-being of a very important part of your life:  your pets.  It’s okay to take a pass on a vet just because you got a “strange vibe”.  Listen to your gut, don’t be afraid to speak up if you have questions, and trust your instincts.  Your pet will thank you with a long, happy, healthy life.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio